05 February 2021

Featured Artist: February 2021

The February edition of pcPolyzine features polymer clay artist, Debbie Crothers!

Debbie Crothers is a polymer clay artist who lives in a beautiful coastal town in Midwest, Western Australia. She's married to a very supportive husband and has 3 great (adult) kids. Debbie says life is pretty idyllic for her and she spends the majority of her time either in her studio or hanging out with family and friends.

We wanted to learn more about Debbie and here's what she shared with us:

pcPolyzine: How did you get into polymer clay?
Debbie: Polymer clay fell into my life accidentally when my son was given a mini "clay set" for his birthday about 20 years ago. The clay was very hard and we couldn't use it. The booklet which came with the clay looked very cool. I knew I had to find some replacement clay to play around with and about 5 years later, I did.

pcPolyzine: How long have you been working with polymer clay?
Debbie: I've always been creative and have dabbled with lots of different mediums including felting, glass art, figure sculpture, life drawing, textile jewelry, just to name a few. I began working with polymer clay seriously in about 2006 and was pretty much self-taught as I didn't have a computer at home and had never really seen much in the way of polymer clay books, etc. The excitement I felt during those early years was unbelievable. This was a medium I fell in love with very quickly and it instantly took over all other mediums. By 2008, I was working predominantly in polymer clay and nothing else. 

pcPolyzine: How do you come up with an idea for a project  do you plan it or just start working?
Debbie: I love to make beads so they are always in the back of my mind when I begin to plan a new project. Coming up with ideas to create new beads or a new body of work in polymer clay is one of my favorite things to do and there are a few ways I go about it. 

Set myself a challenge: This is a great way to come up with different ideas. For example, I've set myself challenges in the past where I explore anything related to polymer clay and lace (i.e., how many ways can I use lace with polymer clay?). I've also done this with silkscreens, stencils, foils, and embossing powder. It's a great way to challenge yourself and quite often, there are surprises to be found.

Think of a theme: This is something I did recently and I ended up creating some of my favorite pieces. My theme was relax! I grabbed my visual diary and wrote down whatever came to mind when I though of the word—relax. I thought of what colors made me feel relaxed, what shapes, what textures, and eventually developed an inspiration board which I could then use in the studio. There are so many themes to think of and this could be a great starting point for someone lacking a little inspiration.

Limit your tools and materials: This is a great way of clearing your mind before you start working. This is something I had to think about prior to teaching workshops in a remote outback community. Students had limited tools, materials, and jewelry making supplies, so I had to be mindful of this when creating workshop content. It was actually quite liberating to pare back my resources. Sometimes having a shelf full of supplies and a drawer full of tools can clutter your mind and it's difficult to know where to start.

pcPolyzine: What inspires you to create pieces in polymer clay?
Debbie: There is so much inspiration everywhere I look. I'm surrounded by the ocean which in itself is abundant with different shapes, colors, and textures. The shape of crab claws, fish bones, shells, and fish scales all offer an endless supply of inspiration. I also love to look at home décor items. Have you ever noticed the beautiful shapes of some vases or teapots or even lamp shades? There are so many things we can gather our inspiration from and to be honest, I can't say I have a favorite.
pcPolyzine: What's your favorite piece or project you've made in polymer clay?
Debbie: My favorite polymer clay piece is a large contemporary art jewelry piece I created a few years ago called "Red Treasure". My eldest son is now 25 and has always struggled with showing his feelings (tough, Aussie bloke of course). When he began fishing for a living he would often bring me home (what I call) treasure! He would find gnarly pieces of driftwood for me. He would bring home sea urchin spines, shells with holes, crab claws—you get the picture. I loved these treasures so much and I knew he felt good giving them to me. It was his way of letting me know he loved me. I gathered together some of my favorite pieces and created a choker style necklace with little polymer clay frames that cascaded down the front of the body. In each frame was a treasure Red had given me. This was my way of honoring the relationship I have with my son.

pcPolyzine: Does your work have a theme or message?
Debbie: My work doesn't really have a theme—I love to jump from one idea to the next and I find that exciting. Although I must admit, I do love incorporating recycled and mixed media items in my pieces. I also love creating art beads. I find this incredibly relaxing and the rewards that come from creating such small works of art are quite overwhelming. It's pure joy. If I'm entering an exhibition, an art prize, etc., the work I create will have a meaning or message behind it, but it's not how I work every day in the studio. My love of polymer clay simply sees me wanting to create, quite often, without purpose.

pcPolyzine: What are your favorite (or most important) tools you use when working with clay?
Debbie: There are so many tools, texture items, and products in my studio it's not funny. Sometimes it's overwhelming and I need to clear away my clay table to clear my head. I don't think I have a favorite—it depends on what I'm working on I guess. If I had to bring 5 items to a deserted island with me I would take a pasta machine and tissue blade of course, a skewer, an acrylic sheet, and my heat gun (of course my deserted island has power!!).

pcPolyzine: Do you have any advice for new artists to polymer clay?
Debbie: There are many who are delving into the delights of polymer clay these days which is fantastic. If I was going to give advice I would have to say, experiment, explore, create, and play to your heart's content!! Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself happy, but I would highly recommend writing everything down. Make a record of all that happens in your studio. If you create a gorgeous color, write down the recipe. If your glue fails after 3 months, write it down. If your gold leafing tarnishes, write it down. This is a practice I got into very early on in my polymer clay career and I'm still looking up notes from 10 years ago!! It has honestly saved me so much time and energy and it's a brilliant resource.

pcPolyzine: Any final thoughts for our readers?
Debbie: We are all in this wonderful world of polymer clay for our own reasons. If you love creating to sell—that's brilliant. If you're a wholesaler or you work on commission—go for it. If you're into mass production and you love it—who am I to stop you? As I said, we are all on our own journey and we will all find happiness with this medium in different ways. What suits one person may not suit another and that's okay! Be happy doing what you're doing and it will show in your work.

pcPolyzine: Debbie, your work is beautiful as is your advice to our readers. We are excited to share your work with the pcPolyzine community. Thank you for taking time to share with us!

To connect with Debbie and see more of her work, check her out on Facebook, Instagram, and through her website

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